Smith's Domus brings retail boost to Main Street | August 12, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - August 12, 2011

Smith's Domus brings retail boost to Main Street

by Jeb Bing

Margaret Smith is planning a day of special festivities Aug. 27 at her newly reopened Domus kitchen and home accessories store on Main Street. The all-day event at the store at 652 Main St. will feature a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, drawings, product and cooking demonstrations and live music. Although the store actually resumed its Pleasanton business a month ago, Smith wanted to make sure everything worked in the somewhat-renovated building and that all the summer (and now pre-Halloween, Thanksgiving and soon Christmas) merchandise was in place.

If you haven't walked through the store lately, do so early in the morning as I did when the doors were first opened. There's not a speck of dirt on the floor, all the very breakable glassware is in place, and the friendliness of Smith and her sales staff is still "morning fresh" before they start another day of never-ending customer questions and (hopefully) purchases.

Smith is excited about officially celebrating her store's return to Pleasanton. A long-time resident of Los Gatos, she purchased the Domus name and store there from its original owners in 1996, where it had been a Los Gatos landmark since 1969. Later, she opened a smaller branch store in the Willow Glen section of San Jose, which remains open, but closed the Los Gatos store last May when the property owner doubled the rent. It made no economic sense to stay in Los Gatos and Smith has now moved her flagship business here.

She saw Pleasanton as a viable downtown when she was looking to expand the Los Gatos business back in 1998 when she leased the 11,000-square-foot building on Main Street for a move into the lucrative Tri-Valley and East Bay market. Even today, just a month after relocating here, customers are coming from all over the Bay Area to shop at Domus, which San Francisco Magazine described as a unique blend of Williams-Sonoma, Pier 1, Pottery Barn, Papyrus and Crate and Barrel. Along with attracting more shoppers to Pleasanton, Domus is part of an increasingly popular retail center on North Main that includes Clover Creek, Rick's Picks and specialty shops.

With Craig Semmelmeyer set to open his renovated two-story retail complex at 234 Main St. at the far south end of downtown Pleasanton, Main Street will have shopping appeal from one end to the other. Remember, it was Semmelmeyer's Main Street Property Services that developed the popular Tully's Coffee Shop site at Main and Angela streets, so with Fleet Feet and a new restaurant moving into his new property we can expect more of that same shopper sizzle. With Domus, Semmelmeyer and more, downtown now has less than a 5% retail vacancy rate, a good sign for merchants and shoppers as we head out of the dog days of August into a robust holiday season.

Semmelmeyer's building was vacant after Guaranty Bank purchased it and ordered the businesses there to move out in 2009. The bank reportedly paid $2.5 million for the property, but other than putting signs in the window, never moved in before it was seized by the FDIC. The building remained empty until Semmelmeyer's firm reportedly paid $500,000 to acquire the property and undertake costly renovations.

The Domus building was vacant for an excruciating two years, too. After opening her Pleasanton branch, Smith found herself overwhelmed with management duties in Los Gatos and sold the Pleasanton business to John Maloney and his wife Cathy, who were allowed to continue using the name. The Maloneys later closed their business to pursue other interests, and, like Semmelmeyer's building, it was vacant until a month ago.

Smith says it's been rewarding to see so many of Domus' "loyal customers" in the Pleasanton store already and she is looking forward to meeting many more at her Aug. 27 grand opening celebration, which is on a Saturday. We'll see you there.


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